Specials (Uglies Trilogy, book 3), by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the trilogy, implant which started with Uglies (appropriately enough) and Pretties. If you’ll recall, drugs Westerfeld is married to Justine Larbalestier, try last year’s Norton Award winner, and the two of them spend summer in New York and summer in Australia. This, of course, necessitates two sets of practically everything, and I’m almost in amazement that there are writers who can afford such stuff.

Tally Youngblood started the series as an Ugly, an under-sixteen in her future society who has not yet had the mandatory surgery that makes you cookie-cutter beautiful and perfect for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, I cannot describe the plots of any of the books without giving away important plot points of the other volumes, so I’ll just skip to the cut here. If you’re reading this on the Livejournal RSS feed, I’m sorry, and I hope you’ve read the books or that you don’t care.

Anyway, Tally became a Pretty at the end of book 1, and at the end of book 2, she became a Special — a member of the Special Circumstances forces, complete with reinforced skeleton, sharpened teeth, heightened senses, cruelly wolfish looks, and complete dedication to her City. She is a member of a group of elite Specials called the Cutters, who engage in self-injury in order to heighten their senses even more. As before, the people who live outside the community are causing problems, especially Tally’s old boyfriend David. These people have the goal of bringing the society down, in that they hate the mandatory brain-damage that comes with the surgery, and they wonder who it is who has the decision to decide how everyone looks. Tally, of course, as a member of the Specials, is expected to chase them down. She does, with interesting results.

In this volume, we get to see a city that isn’t Tally’s city: it’s called Diego, and I presume it’s a new version of San Diego. There, they eschew the brain-melting part of the surgery, but people can have elective plastic surgery, and it takes some extreme forms, such as wings. The Diegans and the Smokies (the people outside of the community) have figured out how to undo pretty-mindedness and how to make a Special an un-Special again. I’m not, of course, surprised that there’s another place where they seem to realize that the brain damage is a bad idea, but Diego still encourages plastic surgery for conformity. They’re not exactly Utopia, either.

Shay and Tally and, frankly, everyone else become a lot less likeable in this volume. I liked Tally a fair amount in the first book, and I thought her struggle with society and conformity was realistic and understandable. In the second book, it became a little less so, and in the third book, not at all. Tally keeps getting her wishes — she becomes Pretty, she becomes a Special, and she never has to take pills or lose her Special-ness or her Pretty-ness. That’s exactly how everything would go for her, in her head. Okay, perhaps she loses friends and people and her ability to trust blindly in the system. Yes, those are definitely important things, and they signify a growing-up for her and a cheapening of the state of being Pretty or Special. However, Tally still gets to be Special, and no one else ever will, which makes her even MORE special. There’s some extreme wish-fulfillment going on there.

The plot was fine, but I can’t actually really differentiate between the plot of book 2 and the plot of book 3. It’s been a few weeks since I read each book, but they’re blurring together in my mind more than they should. In both, she has had not-entirely-elective surgery and she’s expected to fight against her old friends, although she’s never quite sure she wants to, and Shay is egging her on. Perhaps they’re not exactly the same — as a matter of fact, they definitely aren’t exactly the same — but they’re too similar for my tastes.

The general consensus on other review sites seems to be that the first book was pretty good, and they went downhill from there. I hate following trends, but I have to agree: the number of the volume in the trilogy reflects the rank of each book. This one, I’ll give 3/5 stars — there were no obvious errors, but it was a little dull.

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